Public Land Elk With a Longbow

I recently caught up with good friend, Jim Neaves, of Centuar Archery in Montana, to hear about his public land elk hunt with a longbow in the river bottoms of western Montana. It was one of those special hunts where Jim found himself in the right place at just the right time. Jim shares his story here…

I had actually hunted the night before and heard an elk bugle in the distance. I gave a few cow mews and nothing responded. Light grew dim and the camera got shut down for the evening. As I descended from the tree stand I gave a few more chirps and in the distance a response from 3 or 4 cows came back. I got to the base of my tree and with camera gear packed up, I headed back towards the vehicle. As I got within a few hundred yards of where I park, I was graced with the sound of crashing water and stampeding hooves. Roughly 40 to 50 head of elk were crossing the Bitterroot river just in front of me. I jogged up the tail end of the trail and got within about 25 yards of the remaining followers. It was too dark and elk were moving quick but at that point I knew they were in there and I said to myself, “I’ll be back in the morning.”


The right place at the right time – bull down!

The next morning came quick with only a few hours of sleep, but you roll with the elk when you can. Especially when you know they are there. I was in the treestand by 5:30am with camera gear ready and an arrow on the bow string. Still too dark to film, I heard movement to the north of me. I could make out some large figures headed south and about 30 yards to the west of me. I got the glass on them and could see it was a single file of cows and calves. I watched patiently as they moved through, wishing they had come a half hour later than they did. They moved off and things grew silent again.

The area was calm and peaceful as a doe and fawn came through. I was thinking in my head that I may move my stand just a hair to the north, not because of seeing those deer but because of a general overall study of trails and activity I have witnessed since opening day. Later, I began hearing noise coming from the southeast. It sounded big. “It had to be an elk,” I thought. It was all by itself and was angling right at me. Then I saw the antlers on his head. I glassed him real quick and realized he had decent brow tines which means… bull.

public land elk

Neaves killed his bull with his own Centaur longbow and Big Game Head.

The camera was rolling as the bull kept meandering my way. I was running the camera with my right hand and grabbed my bow hanging from the branch with my left. As he neared, I could see this was going to happen. I slowly zoomed out to give myself a little wiggle room to get the shot on film. A few more steps and he was at 6 yards. I figured that would do. As the left leg moved forward for the step, I dropped the string. It was a beautiful site. Right in the pocket! The bull whirled and went back almost perfectly on the same path he entered at about a 3/4 running pace. 10 seconds later I heard a giant crash and sticks breaking. All I could do was thank the Lord at that moment.

Out of anywhere in that vast expanse I could have been, he walked right up to me and said, “Here I am, Jim.” This is my first bull elk on public land with a longbow. I could not be happier! He is not a giant and I do not care. He is a legal bull and now my freezer will be full with some of the best table fare I know. God bless – and good hunting to you.

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